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Top Ten Plays from Spurs vs. Cavs

Monday night’s game between the Spurs and Cavs was billed as a clash of titans, but San Antonio beat down their struggling Eastern Conference rivals 103-74. The game produced a slew of highlight plays for the winning squad, and here are the top ten as voted by you the fans on Twitter.

10. We’ll start with a dominant individual play from Kawhi Leonard, as there were many in this game. On this one, he started by attacking LeBron in a pick and roll with Dewayne Dedmon. LeBron recovered well to prevent the bounce pass to Dedmon, then reached in to go for the steal. Kawhi protected the ball, spun to his left, and hit a tough lefty jump hook in traffic.

9. On Sunday, I wrote about how Pau Gasol has become the league’s best three point shooter since the All-Star break. Almost every single one of his attempts has been open or wide open because his defender was in the paint, and Kawhi has assisted on almost half of his makes.

Here, Kawhi backs up a smaller defender and drives into the paint, forcing Tristan Thompson to slide down and help. Kawhi makes the easy chest pass to Pau, who cans the open triple.

8. Kawhi set the tone defensively early in this game, primarily guarding the man who is widely regarded as the best player in the world. Here, the Klaw singlehandedly blows up a pick and roll by intercepting LeBron’s pocket bounce pass. This started a transition break, and Kawhi passed to Parker who easily could’ve drawn an and 1 on his layup.

7. Here’s another example of Kawhi refusing to be stopped. The Cavs play poor transition defense, as LeBron doesn’t get over to guard his man who has the ball. Kyrie Irving is the only thing in between Kawhi and the basket, and pretty much the only thing he can do is attempt to take a charge. Irving didn’t get his feet set, and Kawhi euro stepped through the contact and finished the layup anyway.

6. Kawhi defended LeBron exceptionally well in this game, and that defense often turned into offense. Tim Duncan was the master of blocking shots and keeping the ball in play, and on this play Kawhi does exactly that while preventing LeBron from scoring. The Spurs get into a halfcourt set at the other end, and Manu shakes Richard Jefferson with a jab step before draining the triple.

5. This was a superstar play by a superstar player, and LeBron knows better than anybody how difficult that is to stop. He shook his head while describing this play after the game. “Teams are gonna hit shots, like the shot Kawhi made at the end of the second quarter. He had two guys on him, contested shot, one hand jump hook from the free throw line.”

4. Richard Jefferson had Tim Duncan on his podcast on Sunday, and they joked about how Popovich hated RJ when he was in San Antonio and he had been traded to make room for “that bum Kawhi.”

On this play Aldridge came up to initiate a high pick and roll with Kawhi, but Leonard didn’t use the screen. He took it to Jefferson one on one instead, and drove right past him for the easy dunk.

3. Of Kawhi’s several dunks in this game, this was his most emphatic. LeBron closed out at a bad angle and allowed Leonard the middle of the lane. Leonard drove that lane with a full head of steam, and when Tristan Thompson was late to rotate he wisely stepped aside so he didn’t wind up in Kawhi’s poster.

2. Kawhi has gotten quite good at running transition breaks. Here, he gets the long rebound and immediately pushes the pace when he sees the 3-2 man advantage. The defenders key in on Leonard, and Patty finds an open spot on the right side of the 3-point arc. Kawhi makes the right decision to pass to him, but the defense recovered.

Manu ran down the opposite side of the floor, and continued his open cut to the basket when Mills got the ball. Patty lobbed it up to the ancient Ginobili, who finished with a ridiculous reverse layup that screamed, “age is just a number.”

1. After the game, Coach Popovich said that the offense was great, but the defense won the game for the Spurs. Kawhi led the charge, but it was a total team effort on that end of the floor to limit the Cavs to just 74 points.

Kyrie Irving tried driving past Parker on this play, but Parker did a good job of staying tight and slowing his progress. Aldridge rotated over to help, and when Kyrie attempted the layup LaMarcus came over the top for an emphatic block.

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